Deer Creek Water Origins

 

Before we ever see water in Deer Creek, most of it has rained, snowed, and been stored in NID’s Mountain Division and PG&E Lakes. It’s moved from lake to lake, going through multiple powerhouses, generating electricity. It enters Scotts Flat Lake where swimmers, motor boaters, and fisherman enjoy it. Flowing into Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir, human or wind-powered boaters recreate on it.

Another portion of water entering Deer Creek comes from the watershed. A watershed is an area of land that channels water to a low point, such as a stream, river, lake, or ocean.

History of Water Management in Nevada County: 1850 Water Business is Born

Placer miners needed water for rockers; hydraulic miners needed it to move mountains.

The first miner’s ditch, to which PG&E traces its tap root, was built in 1850 by The Rock Creek Water Company.  Historians locate this ditch is near Coyote Hill. Constructed by Charles Marsh, William Crawford, John & Thomas Dunn, and C. Carol at a cost of $10K, the ditch was nine miles long.

After only two weeks of operation, The Rock Creek Water Company investment paid off.

Successful, and profitable, water transportation soon spread to neighboring counties— Placer, Eldorado, Amador, Calaveras, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne County.

Before water management, Deer Creek was seasonal.

An 1854 drought caused local economic hardship. Mines stopped working, miners couldn’t pay debts, and real estate values crashed.

Wooden water flume. Photo Credit: Les Nicholson

After assessing the lakes in the Yuba Watershed, water companies understood that gravity and elevation would work in their favor. They built systems to move water to the mines using flumes, tunnels, high-pressure pipes, siphons, and trestle bridges.

The water transportation system was an engineering marvel of its time.

Early engineers and savvy businessmen realized the potential of a year-round water supply for ranching, mills, and establishing towns.

When the Sawyer Decision washed-up hydraulic mining in the mid 1880s, the South Yuba Water Company, and its subsidiary, the Central California Electric Company, was poised to capitalize on a new industry—hydroelectrisity.

 

Photo Credit: LocoSteve

Following Deer Creek’s Water Path

Deer Creek water begins in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, north of I-80, fifty-five miles northwest of Lake Tahoe.

French Lake–elevation 6,676 ft.
Faucherie Lake–elevation 6,135 ft.
Sawmill Lake–elevation 5,869 ft.
Bowman Lake–elevation 5,600 ft.
Fuller Lake–elevation 5,344 ft.
Canyon Creek Drainage
Bowman Spaulding Canal
Spaulding Hydro Power Plant
Spaulding Lake–elevation 5,014 ft.
Hwy 20 & Bear Valley–South Yuba Canal
Big Tunnel
Deer Creek Forebay–elevation 4,477 ft.
Deer Creek Hydro Power Plant
North and South Fork Deer Creek Confluence
Deer Creek
Scotts Flat Lake–elevation 3,069 ft.
Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir–elevation 2,094 ft.

 

“There’s very little natural water in Deer Creek,” says Les Nicholson, retired Nevada Irrigation District Hydroelectric Manager.

Burlington Ridge, the apex of the North and South Fork of Deer Creek isn’t high enough to maintain a snowpack (4,160 ft elevation).

“Most Deer Creek water is imported,” Nicholson says. “Imported water means it comes from another drainage.”

In Deer Creek’s case, that drainage is the Yuba Watershed.

Nicholson generously shared his time to explain the complicated route water takes before we see it in our ditches, creeks, and rivers.

*After leaving Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir, the video tour back-tracks to Burlington Ridge, the physical headwaters of the North and South Forks of Deer Creek.

 

Run-off and gravity always show the direction water is flowing.

Resources:

Bear Yuba Land Trust – Trails Portal

Burlington Ridge | North Fork Deer Creek

GetAwayHorsePlay.com – Skillman Horse Camping video

Gold Country Trails Council – Horse Camps & Trail Maps

Skillman Horse Campground reservations 

USDA Forest Service – Skillman Campground & OHV information 

 Burlington Ridge | South Fork Deer Creek

Burlington Motorcycle Trail System

OHV Trails around Donner Summit 

Hiking Trails & Camping

All Trails – Cascade Canal

Outside In – Snow Mountain Ditch 

Nevada Irrigation District

Since 1921 the Nevada Irrigation District has supplied domestic, irrigation, and domestic water for Nevada and Placer Counties. It is an independent California special district governed by an elected board.

South Yuba Canal NID video

Nevada Irrigation District Campgrounds & Lakes

PG&E

Book: PG&E of California,1851-1952, by Charles Coleman

History of PG&E

Wikipedia – Pacific Gas and Electric Company

 

Tree Mortality & Falling Hazards

Dead and dying trees in the Tahoe National Forest and Nevada County is a fact of contemporary life. Being aware of hazards that dead trees cause and hyperconscious of fire starting activities will help keep families and neighbors safer.

 

From 66 million dead trees in 2010 to 129 million in 2017, the State of California is losing trees at a rate that no one has previously seen.

An effective response is beyond what the US Forest Service and CalFire can handle.

Keeping populated areas safe from wildfires and falling trees, as well as aiding in forest recovery will take cooperation between homeowners, PG&E, NID, recreation facility managers, environmental, nonprofit, and government agencies.”

“Though California received record-breaking rains in the winter of 2016-2017, the effects of five consecutive years of severe drought, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation, and rising temperatures have led to historic levels of tree die-off. ” – Tree Mortality Task Force – News Release 12/12/17

“The Tree Mortality Taskforce has provided an essential venue for coordination of response efforts, exchange of ideas, reporting, and accountability for the ongoing statewide response to this incident,” says Supervisor Nathan Magsig of Fresno County. – News Release 12/12/17 Tree Mortality Taskforce. 

In Executive Order B-42-17, Governor Brown relaxed regulations so that anyone licensed for timber and tree service operations can perform tree removal in high-risk areas.

California’s ‘New Normal’ Fire Safety Strategies

“Approximately 95% of all wildfires in California are caused by people,” says the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group (CWCG).

Roadway, Burn Pile, and Camping Safety

Sparks Along Roadways

https://youtu.be/vWUkKoU707Y

Burn Pile Safety

Putting out Campfires

Falling Trees

  • stay clear of large stands of dead trees, especially if it is windy
  • look up and around before parking near dead trees, don’t park in the potential path of a tree fall
  • if traveling to remote areas, keep a chainsaw or ax in your vehicle in case a tree fall blocks the road
  • Tree Mortality – Watch Out – PDF

Defensible Space Around Homes

“The importance of removing dead and diseased trees cannot be overstated. Addressing widespread tree mortality is a crucial first step to not only safeguarding our forest communities but also in creating a healthier and more resilient Sierra Nevada forest – which provides more than 60 percent of the state’s water supply.” – Tom Berryhill, Tree Mortality Update – 3/2016

  •  Remove dead trees
  • Create defensible space around your home
  • Call PG&E (1-800-743-5000) if you have a dead tree threatening a power line
  • Create a home evacuation plan and ‘go-kit.’ Check kit supplies monthly

After the McCourtney and Lobo fires in October 2017, Nevada County residents were harshly reminded about how quickly wildfires can move through communities.

We also have an opportunity to witness the adaptations that nature makes in response to drought, global warming, and pest infestations.

 

If you liked this post, check out Native Plants for Healing the Land after Fire or bark Miniscule Mountain Beetle Turning Forests Red

Resources:

Forest Research and Outreach – University of California

Homeowner Responsibilities – USDA

Nevada County FireSafe Council – 2018-2019 Fire Season Guide + Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Guide

One Less Spark – One Less Wildfire – fire prevention

Ongoing hazards from trees affected by drought – PG&E

Our Forests are Changing  – USDA

Prepare for Bark Beetle – CalFire

USDA Forest Service – Aerial Detection Survey Results

With California Drought Over, Fewer Sierra Pines Dying –  10/24/17 – 

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